The African Standby Force: Vision vs. Reality

The Eastern African Standby Force.

In July 2002, the African Heads of State and Governments agreed to establish the Peace and Security Commission as “a standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts”. One critical component of the PSC is the African Standby Force (ASF). The purpose of the ASF isto serve as a continental standby force, comprising of five regional brigades from the five Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and independent regional mechanisms (RM). The unofficial vision and mission document for the ASF was developed in 2006 and needs to be reviewed so that it reflects the current realities and factors the challenges have thus far met with its establishment. The Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia convened a two-day workshop in October, 2012, to review the ASF Vision document so that it suitably aligns  to the current realities and the African Union (AU)-mandated peace support operations and to generate recommendations for amendments.


Some of the critical questions raised were:

  • What should be done to strengthen Member States’ political will for this enormous initiative, particularly in light of the lessons from AMISOM?
  • How should the ASF be organized so that it meets the changing requirements of varying missions and scenarios?
  • Does the formation of the Military Committee as a key advisory institution to the PSC make the vision of ASF military heavy?
  • Given that there are ongoing discussions between the AU and RECs, what are the specific concerns of the Member States and RECs in the concept and vision of the ASF?
  • How should the concept of the ASF be structured to provide guidance to the formation of the standby brigades without being prescriptive?


The workshop was attended by senior professionals from the AU/PSOD, UN mission to AU, IPSS senior staff and other external experts. The output of the workshop will feed into the drafting of the reviewed vision and mission.


This post was submitted by Alula Iyasu, Research Coordinator at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies.


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The African Solutions Blog (AfSol Blog) is dedicated to providing a platform for discussing the theme, “African solutions for African problems”.  There has been growing interest on the part of the African Union (AU) and Member States to chart their own course, particularly in conflict resolution and peace and security through policy frameworks and initiatives that are consistent with the historical, social, political and institutional realities of African states.  Conceptually, many experts and practitioners agree with this initiative. However, there is significant division on what exactly constitutes African-centered solutions at the operational level, especially given the institutional, financial and management challenges most African states face.

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